Sampradaya Sangita: Classical Musical Tradition (A Rare Book)

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Item Code: NAE319
Author: Dr. Lalita Ramakrishna
Publisher: Kalpatharu Research Academy, Bengaluru
Language: English
Edition: 2005
Pages: 315 (27 color and 38 B/W illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.0 Inch x 7.5 Inch
Weight 780 gm
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Book Description
About the Author

Dr. Lalita Ramakrishna has a M. Phil in English Literature from C.I.E.F.L., Hyderabad and a doctorate in Karnatak Music from Delhi University. She is keenly interested in doing research in also eager to communicate traditional values to the younger generation.

She has authored following books :
1. Time and the self in Beckett
2. The Varnam
3. Musical Heritage of India
4. Puzzle your way through Indian Mythology
5. Why Nani

She is contributing articles every month to the following magazines: Tattvaloka, Sangita Sudha and Nada Brahmam.


We are extremely happy to present this great work on Sampradaya Sangita (Classical Music Tradition). The book traces the ancient origin of classical Indian music handed down from Vedic times. It gives authentic, detailed information on this subject. We thank Smt. Dr. Lalita Ramakrishna for taking-up this great research work for us. She has a Doctorate in Indian Classical Music from Delhi University and a M. Phil in English from C.I.E.F.L., Hyderabad.

We are grateful to our chief patron the revered Jagadguru Sri Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha Maha Swamiji of Sringeri Sharadha Peetham, and to our Chairman Shri V.K. Gowrishankar, the Administrator of Sri Sringeri Sharada Peetham for his continued interest in our activities. We also thank the Authorities of the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Govt. of India, New Delhi, the Authorities of Ministry of Education, Govt. of Karnataka; and we acknowledge the co- operation of the printers M/S Omkar Offset Printers for printing this volume neatly and expeditiously.


Adi sankara, said that of the several paths to salvation, Bhakti is the greatest. Moksha sadhana samagrayam Bhakthireva gariyasi (Vivekachudamani). Of the vehicles of Bhakti, music is the foremost. The ancient Alwars and Nayanmars of Tamil Nadu had worshipped God through delectable songs. Narayana Bhattadri of Kerala, Purandara Dasa of Karnataka, Thukaram of Maharashtra, Meera of Rajasthan and Gujarat, Guru Nanak of Punjab, Tulsi Das and Kabir of North India, Chaitanya Mahaprabu of the east, Annamacharya of Andhra and Tyagaraja of South worshipped their Ishta deiva (their chosen deity) and spread Bhakti throughout India.

It is said, that “Music has charms to soothe the savage beast, to soften rocks or bend the knotted Oak”.

Music knows no barriers- linguistic, geographical, religious or any other. One enjoys the traditional music of the west, the east, north or south.

The very first music know to the world is the Sama Veda of unknown antiquity. The metre, rhythms and intonation are all embodied in the old Vedic verse. Each country in the would development later their beautiful music. India development its two systems, the karnatic and the Hindustani. Karnatic music does not mean music of Karnataka; According to Tamil dictionary “Karnatakam “means old, old fashioned or ancient- not modern. Karnatic music may therefore mean old or ancient music. Considering the antiquity of Tamil language, the term Karantic music is interpreted as ancient music. Karnatic music is sung in Andhra, Kerala, and Karnataka and Tamil Nadu without any linguistic barriers. Purandaradasa’s Jagadodharana and Tyagaraja hundreds of inimitable Kritis are sung in the south and also in other parts of India.

This book. “Sampradaya Sangita” dealing with the musical tradition, by Laliita Ramakrishna, highlights certain aspects music classical music like nada. Raga etc., it is worth noting that music whether Hindustani or Karnatic is based on the Sapta Swara- The seven syllables (sa, ri, ga, ma,..etc) . It will be a worthwhile area of study to trach the origin of Sapta Swara.

The masterly treatment of classical music by the author compels admiration. I am sure this volume will be a valuable addition to the library of classical music.


This book concentrates on the underlying principles of Indian classical music. Each chapter analyses a component of classical music and its underlying principles. It tries to capture the idea, and the aesthetic ideals that sustain each of these vital facets tracing its progression from its ancient sources.

This is not a book that goes only into detailed facts; it is not a nuts and bolts kind of analysis. Major trends that have persisted though the centuries have been described. All the chapters relate to the original vision that has fashioned this art form.

Sastriya Sangita is the name of classical music and it derives its name from the Sanskrit root 'shas' which means 'discipline, order, regulation, grammar.' Shastriya sangita is thus an art with a strict grammar. In case this leads the reader to presume that rules make classical music dull or rigid, this book points to the amazing paradox of how these rules liberate and free the imagination. Individual creativity is empowered to create endless designs of melody and sound in this art form.

The term sangita means music that is presented "in an excellent manner" (samyak gayati). Classical music is not haphazard, nor is it transitory. Like Tennyson's River, "men may come and men may go" but classical music "goes on forever". It has all the vitality of an awesome river that is constantly recreated through its connection with its source, changing according to the terrain, the place and the times but always maintaining its continuity. This aspect is fascinating, like the first cry of the newborn that always thrills and amazes us although this is the most repeated experience in human history.

Chapter 1 is on Nada (musical sound) and its components sruti, svara, and gamaka, and on the importance of sound in ancient Indian tradition. The pioneers of this art preferred an oral tradition. They upheld the value of sound over and above that of meaning making and script writing. Tonal variations communicated more eloquently than language, so music prevailed over language. Melodic music developed from an alternative world view that celebrated the individual, and encouraged his personal expression and communication.

Chapter 2 looks at Raga which is central to classical music. The idea of raga originated over 2000 years ago and is evolving continuously. Ragas were codified at different periods in the north and south. The present system of the 72 meals in Karnatak music and the Thaats of the Hindustani system act as a reference point for present day performers and musicologists. Alapana is a unique expression that satisfies the creative urge of the artist. Rasa (total effect of a performance) binds the performer and the audience and looks at the cathartic nature of art. Bhava in music is not emotion but a sublimated subtle state that takes the listener away from his daily concerns. Ragas were visualized by painters and Ragarnala paintings are exquisite depictions of artists based on the raga descriptions of musicologists.

Chapter 3 explains Laya or rhythm, its integral part in music and the way it operates in musical forms. Laya is a profound cosmic idea. Laya and Sruti are the warp and woof of classical music. Tala is basic in all composed music forms and demands a fine mathematical ability. The challenge of this art system to the Intellect in addition to the creative imagination is a unique feature. It encourages and develops the left brain as well as the right brain of the performer and the rasika. Ancient talas and the different tala systems of the Karnatak and Hindustani systems have been explained.

Kalpita sangita or compositions, discussed in Ch 4, are an integral part of classical music responsible for the preservation and continuity of tradition. These act as building blocks throughout the historical progression of music. Lyrics composed by past masters are renewed in today's recital in each artist's personal mode of expression and communication. Kalpita sangita, or recomposed music, was analysed and codified into many forms called prabandhas. Today's concerts articulate many of these ancient prabandhas in a contemporary mould.

Manodharma sangita is creative extempore music that is created afresh by the individual with each rendition. Creativity and individual expression keeps this ancient art fresh and contemporaneous. Manodharma or innovation is the heartbeat of classical music. It involves the total attention of the artist at the moment of performance. There is always the sense of the unexpected in this art since it is extempore. Limitless horizons of raga open up beckoning and challenging the musician to exciting discoveries in sound. Great liberty is enjoyed in innovation because the musician knows that he is within the ambit of the rules that are firmly anchored in sampradaya (tradition).

Chapter 5 is on composers of classical music who were of ten men of god using music to communicate with the Lord. Musicians were honored in royal courts and patronised by rajas, nawabs, and chieftains. Fascinating legends abound in the biography of the most renowned among these musicians. Courtesans called devadasis were the keepers of many of the arts including music and dance. These families have blended with the mainstream and are managing cultural institutions for the edification of young learners.

Chapter 6 sheds light on Vadya or musical instruments. Vocal music has always had an integral relationship with string instruments in the classical genre. Vocal music is supported by violin or sarangi or harmonium for a full rich effect. Just as percussion provides the rhythmic ambience, the adhara sruti is a constant accompaniment basic to this art. The vina was a generic term to cover all ancient string instruments. The ancient models gave way to newer versions that we use today. The eclectic mind of the Indian musician took freely from other cultures. Any instrument that had a potential to intone gamakas and raga shapes were welcomed and adapted. Percussion instruments of the past and present are described.

Chapter 7 takes a look at the venue and the audience for classical music since ancient times. The venue for music, the stage, has shifted from temples and royal courts to modern concert halls. Music was freely enjoyed by all in an age when there was no idea of selling tickets. Artists were patronised by courts and they did not charge for performance or teaching. The commercial angle was not important. The scholars and connoisseurs were always seated right in front in a concert and the performer gave of his best to gain their approval.

Gurukula has given way to institutions like universities. Audio and video in recent decades have changed the methods of teaching music. Aesthetic Standards for literature and the arts (including classical music) have been delineated since ancient times. Are those ideas relevant to the critical evaluation of music and in assessing contemporary performances? Are we sahrdayas (those who participate emotionally) and rasikas (those who enjoy) or are we cerebral critics?

It is time for stocktaking, to cast the searchlight on the exact nature of classical music and see why it is relevant today. In Indian classical music there is a clear distinction between the classical and light genres of music. Classical music has an umbilical relationship with the raga, srutilaya and tala concept of a prehistoric age. In the words of T.S. Eliot "the presentness of the past" is an exclusive experience in classical music.


1Nada (Musical Sound)1
2Raga (Specific melodic forms)36
3Laya (Rhythm)87
4Kalpita Sangita (Compositions)118
5Vaggeyakara (Composers)160
6Vadya (Musical Instruments)209
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